Boeing has applied some stealth design principles to the F-15 Strike Eagle, and is marketing the modified aircraft for export as the F-15SE Silent Eagle. On the new model, the conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) already added to the F-15E are adapted to carry weapons internally and the vertical tails are canted outwards to reduce radar-cross section under certain conditions. Radar-absorbing and -reflecting materials will be added to the airframe, although the types and places “would depend on U.S. government release policy,” according to Boeing. The result would be an aircraft that matches “5th-Generation Fighters” such as the F-35 in frontal-aspect stealth, the company says. The F-15SE could be quickly reconfigured for conventional external carriage of a wide variety of weapons, just like today’s multi-option Strike Eagles. The weapons that can be carried internally comprise only the AIM-9 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, and the 500-pound JDAM or 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb. The weapons-adapted CFTs can be kept in place or replaced by standard CFTs with more fuel.
This upgrade may be directed specifically at Japan, which has been refused F-22s, but it may also interest other F-15 operators such as Korea, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Israel has chosen the F-35, and may be interested, if it proves too politically or technically difficult to add Israeli electronic warfare systems to their F-35s. The F-15SE cannot match the F-22 or F-35 for all-aspect stealth, especially against ground radars, but Boeing is also offering a new BAE Systems digital electronic warfare system to compensate. This replaces four legacy systems, includes a low-band antenna and is interoperable with the aircraft’s APG-63 (V)3 AESA radar.
Boeing said it would flight-test the modified aircraft in 2010, but is seeking an international partner to design, develop and test the internal carriage system.